Sidelines: Nall poised to keep backup QB spot

As he prepares for the 2005 Packer training camp, not much is new for backup quarterback Craig Nall. This will be his fourth season in Green Bay and, once again, he finds himself in the clipboard derby with two other quarterbacks – top draft choice Aaron Rodgers and veteran J.T. O'Sullivan. Each is vying for the opportunity to be the number two guy behind Brett Favre.

Ask him how this season is different than his first three and Nall just smiles and shrugs. "It's not really any different," Nall said. "You still have to compete. They've brought in yet another first-round guy to compete against me so there's really no different approach than in past years. I still have to go out and compete for a job."

The Louisiana native spent his first two seasons in the number 3 slot before finally nudging into the primary backup role last season when Doug Pederson suffered a season-ending injury. The feeling here is that once all the smoke from training camp and pre-season clears, Nall will keep the number 2 spot.

Here's why: Rodgers comes in as the celebrated rookie from Cal. He's got a big arm and all of the other physical attributes you like in a quarterback. But … he's a rookie. Rare is the rookie who can come in and make a real, positive impact for his team. It takes time. Years. There will be growing pains and you can bet the Packers won't want to throw Rodgers right into the fire and destroy his confidence from the outset.

Reason No. 2: J.T. O'Sullivan's primary status since coming into the league has been "Inactive." He was inactive for his last four games with the New Orleans Saints before coming to Green Bay in the Mike McKenzie trade. He was the inactive third quarterback for each of the Packers' final 12 games last season. He was inactive for the playoff game against the Vikings. His only "action" game on two kneel-down plays to wrap up the win over Chicago on January 2. This is not to say he can't be a good quarterback. We just haven't had the opportunity to see it yet.

That leaves Nall as the Packers' most viable, experienced quarterback option should something happen to Brett Favre. Last season, Nall saw action in five games and was dressed but did not play in eight others. When his opportunities came, he quietly made the most of them. He completed 23 of 33 passes (69%) for 314 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions and a quarterback rating of 139.4. His 33 attempts were the most ever by a Packers quarterback in a season without an interception. Nall got his most extensive playing time of the season against the Bears on January 2. He entered the game in the second quarter and completed seven of 13 passes for 131 yards and a touchdown.

What you also have to admire in Nall is his attitude and approach. "Just because I had a successful year last year doesn't mean that I'm going to retain that spot this year," Nall added. "My mindset is the same as it's been in the past – just go out and win a spot on the roster. Getting the chance to play last year was obviously a big confidence booster and I just want to build on that. I've always been confident in my ability. It's just a matter of going out there and doing it."

Nall also displays the right attitude when you ask him what it's like to play in the shadows of a guy like Favre. "I think it's great," Nall says with a chuckle. "You get a paycheck every week and you don't have to get beat up! But in all seriousness, he's been phenomenal. He's always been the guy that, if he sees us struggling with something he won't point it out in front of all the coaches. He'll pull you to the side and talk to you. He's been a true leader."

Greatness may loom for Rodgers some day, but if the Packers were in a spot where they were going to be without Favre for four games and they had to win at least two of them, Nall has demonstrated that type of ability to lead the offense.

Tom Andrews

Editor's Note: Tom Andrews began covering the Packers in 1974 as a reporter for Milwaukee radio stations WZUU and WOKY. He has been a contributing writer to Packer Report since 1999 and his articles have also appeared in the Green Bay Packers Yearbook, Packer Profiles, Packer Tracker and Sports Collectors Digest among other publications. Andrews is also president of Andrews Media Ventures, a Milwaukee area media and communications consultancy. He will be contributing columns for

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